Jennifer Sky

Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom by Jennifer Sky

QUEEN OF THE TOKYO BALLROOM

Available now from the Atavist and Amazon.

When Jennifer Sky was fifteen, she was offered the chance to spend a summer working as a model in Japan. For a girl from rural Florida who spent hours poring over fashion magazines it seemed like a dream come true. But soon she found herself all but abandoned in an unfamiliar city, attempting to navigate a ruthless industry on her own and waving goodbye to childhood on the boozy margins of Tokyo’s expatriate scene. In “Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom,” Sky recounts the summer that changed the course of her life—and left her still sorting out the consequences two decades later.

  • All Published Works

  • Nonfiction

  • Interviews


The New York Times

My Life as a Warrior Princess

READ THIS ARTICLE.

In Mexico, I was given drugs, then coerced into going topless for a shoot. I learned the hard way that my body was not my own.

Observer

Welcome To the Era of the Homeless Model

Read this article.

According to the Department of Labor, the median wage of a fashion model is $9.60 an hour and $19,970 a year, only 1.6 times the poverty level for New York City.

The New Republic

Child Models Deserve Worker Protections, Too

READ THIS ARTICLE.

Young fashion models are particularly vulnerable to predatory behaviors and child abuse because the fashion industry falls under the umbrella of ‘art.’

Observer

Are Models Being Forced Into Extreme Measures to Conceal Their Weight?

READ THIS ARTICLE.

Instead of focusing on jailing folks for being a size 2, France’s efforts to understand anorexia maybe be better spent reexamining the culture that these young people are within.

The New Republic

Models of the World, Unite!

Read this article.

It’s Saturday in New York, it’s snowing, capes are trending on the runways, and at the Lincoln Center’s temporary Fashion Week mecca, the women’s toilets are no longer flushing. (I later mention this at a midnight drink session with friends. One spouts back, “Models don’t pee.”)

The New Republic

When Will the Fashion Industry Treat Underage Models Like the Children They Are?

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By Saturday I’m hearing reports about a new designer who’s all of 7 years old, being described as adorable and sassy on the runway. But taking one step back, we can see a very little girl being objectified, turned into a commodity.

New York Observer

Young Models Are Easy Pickings For the City’s Club Promoters

Read this article.

Top earning promoters will make thousands of dollars a night, bringing in between 10 to 20 girls and boys to attend hosted tables.

New York Magazine

Working As a Teenage Model Gave Me PTSD

Read this article.

No one ever connects being a too-young fashion model with trauma, and even if they do, the sympathy is slight.

Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom

Published by the Atavist

Purchase this e-book from the Atavist or Amazon.

When Jennifer Sky was fifteen, she was offered the chance to spend a summer working as a model in Japan. For a girl from rural Florida who spent hours poring over fashion magazines it seemed like a dream come true. But soon she found herself all but abandoned in an unfamiliar city, attempting to navigate a ruthless industry on her own and waving goodbye to childhood on the boozy margins of Tokyo’s expatriate scene. In “Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom,” Sky recounts the summer that changed the course of her life—and left her still sorting out the consequences two decades later.

The Daily Beast

Does Fashion Week Exploit Teen Models?

Read this article.

“Backstage none of the press left when the girls were changing. No one was concerned if the girls that were changing were underage.”

The Daily Beast

Supermodels’ Anita Hill Problem

Read this article.

While any person can report charges of rape or assault to the police, the Civil Rights Act of 1962—which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, or religion—only protects crimes in the workplace that are committed as part of an official employer/employee relationship. Here, Richardson has a loophole on his side: classified as independent contractors, models are not protected by sexual harassment law.

The New York Observer

On The Prowl: Models and The Men We Dated

Read this article.

GiGi and I were situated against a wall, across the room from where Leo DiCaprio was stationed next to his booth. He was just past a boy then, 19, only a few years older than me. His skin held a pale, doe-ish glow. A fan of the grunge-skater costume of the day—baggy jeans, baggy tee, wilted flannel—he liked to wear girls’ headbands and scamper at a nervous tenor.

The New York Observer

Jared Leto’s So-Called Courtship: Remembering Fashion Week in the ’90s

Read this article.

A lifetime separated us from that first encounter, and here we were together, after so many days, so many changes. He walked away, and it occurred to me that I was actually having a better time than I ever had in Bryant Park, trying to please the beautiful people.

The Daily Beast

How Models Get Robbed on the Runway

Read this article.

Models look glamorous and never less than perfect on the billboards. But they claim they're not being paid properly for looking this fabulous—and now they're fighting back.

The Daily News

Watchdog needed in modeling industry, which lacks accountability and regulation

Read this article.

The career of a model is inherently transient. We move from market to market with the change of the fashion season. Because of this transient state, it is easy for our checks to fall through the cracks.

The New York Times

Organizing Fashion Models, and a New Role for Unions

Read the complete letter.

“Founding a union makes a strong oppositional statement that scares off people,” she says. This soft-hands approach sounds like pandering to a deeply patrician industry that routinely eats up and spits out thousands of young women. It feels like the ladylike thing to do.

TinHouse.com

The Birthmark

Read this article.

As a model and actress, Jennifer Sky has lived under the public eye. (Perhaps you recognize her from here?) Now as a writer, she turns her gaze back on the world of fashion and celebrity and tells us what we haven't been seeing, in this web extra for our fiftieth issue: Beauty.

Interview Magazine

Darcey Steinke and American Womanhood

Read this interview.

“I think that’s something that I haven’t seen written about a lot. Not the character that’s drawn to women because she’s going to be a lesbian, but the character who is drawn to women because women are amazing—not necessarily in a sexual way, but the person you are going to turn into, the way your body is going to change.”

The Weeklings

The Art of the Guild

Read this essay.

While builders have always worked in a group, writers sit alone in dark apartments typing.

Interview Magazine

Matthew Specktor's Sense of Agency

Read this interview.

"Good fiction necessarily encompasses our limited understandings of one another, and of ourselves. Henry James' entire career was predicated on that, and I think it's what fiction is for: to illuminate that gap between our secret selves and our more visible and apparent ones."

Salon

Illness is big business

Read this article.

American healthcare is embedded in a competitive medical industry, which often ignores extensive patient care.

Interview Magazine

Francesca Lia Block's Elements of Style

Read this interview.

"Writing is literally transformative. When we read, we are changed. When we write, we are changed. It's neurological. To me, this is a kind of magic."

Guernica

Fashion Week and Exploitation

Read this article.

This year as we enjoy the coverage of fashion week, noting the draping and the newest lines, let us also acknowledge the people that are wearing these pieces of fabric—girls and boys as young as 14, 13, 12.

Interview Magazine

Emma Straub Goes From Screen to Page

Read this interview.

"When I die, if heaven doesn't look like the Beverly Hills Hotel, I want it to look like the Margaret Herrick Library."

The Daily Beast

Olympic Cyclist Dotsie Bauche's Past as a Model Battling Anorezia and Drug Addiction

Read this article.

This week, the world watched as American Dotsie Bausch won a silver medal for cycling in London. But as she rounded that track at top speed, it was easy to forget the girl she used to be: the drug user and successful runway model who weighed 90 pounds and suffered from severe anorexia.

Interview Magazine

Elissa Schappell's Feminist Architecture

Read this article.

"When more women step up, stop taking it for granted that men will really always be in the charge, and make the majority of decisions that govern our lives—that's when we'll see real change. The revolution can never sleep. Because all those liberties "won" in the sexual revolution are under attack, and in constant need of defending."

12 Street

Into the Land of OZ: Salman Rushdie

Read this article.

"'Ruby Slippers' is a story about the future in which the idea of home has become almost meaningless because the world is so unsafe. It's not just that there's no place like home; there's no place that you can really call 'home.' And then the idea that these slippers might actually be magical and able to take you somewhere that felt like home."

TinHouse.com

Wild Sugar: An Interview with Cheryl Strayed

Read this article.

Steve Almond was the first Sugar. He wrote the first 26 columns. One day he emailed me and told me he'd been writing the "Dear Sugar" column on The Rumpus and asked if I wanted to take it over. He knew I was familiar with the column because I'd written Sugar a fan letter, not knowing it was Steve. He told me the gig paid nothing and it would be written anonymously. He understood why I'd say no because he knew I was busy writing and mothering and such. There was no actually good reason to say yes. But I said yes.

Interview Magazine

How Cheryl Strayed Found Her Path

Read this article.

After years of grasping to come to terms with her mother's death, Cheryl Strayed found a book on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She quickly decided to attempt it. The thing was, she had never backpacked before and was set on going out alone—a beautiful blonde woman determined to hike ice, rock, and snow for over a thousand miles. Her new memoir, Wild, is a tale of facing those things that may just break us.

Interview Magazine

Interview with Colson Whitehead : in which we discuss his brains, and new zombie-novel "Zone One".

Read this article.

We can't seem to outrun them. We have zombies on our big screens, our small screens, our streaming devices and cable.

The Outlet: the Blog of Electric Literature

The Notebook: a rememberance of Peter Falk

Read this article.

The girl looked up and sniffed (careful to suppress the urge to wipe at her makeup), as Peter Falk's afternoon cheese plate was "sent over" and offered to me. I had done well, it suggested.

TheRumpus.net

Friendship of Letters: The Rumpus Interview with Sigrid Nunez

Read this article.

The photograph circulating of a young stunning Sigrid Nunez with long dark hair and a shining smile, sitting next to Susan Sontag, gives you the physical reminder of what caught David Reiff (Sontag's son)'s attention. The Sigrid I have come to know has short-cropped hair and is often found in a tweed or houndstooth suit jacket, yet that smile is still at the ready, as she cuts straight to the problem in your prose. It is her caring as a teacher for the young writers at her table, to bring forth the best in our stories without even a hint of "you are just a student," that has made me "fall" a bit myself.

TheRumpus.net

National Donate Life Month

Read this article.

In honor of April being National Donate Life Month, here are some facts about organ donation:
According to WomensHealth.gov the number of people needing a transplant continues to rise faster than the number of donors. About 4,100 transplant candidates are added to the national waiting list each month.

TheRumpus.net

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Roundup

Read this article.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; as a person partaking in the national Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was implemented as part of the package, I see today as a day to celebrate.
So let's take a closer look at the PPACA, shall we?

Lemondrop

'ObamaCare' Saved My Life – a Maxim Cover Girl Shares Her Story

Read this article.

When I applied to Blue Cross, I was promptly denied due to "pre-existing conditions."

By the way, having your chest cut open is not the only way to be determined un-insurable. Pregnant? That's a pre-existing condition. Ever seen a therapist and been prescribed antidepressants? You have one, too. Susceptible to chronic urinary tract infections or kidney stones? You guessed it. Asthma? Ditto.

A personal example of why Obamacare is benefiting Americans

Jennifer Sky Band, for the Stuart News
October 29, 2010

Read this article.

As a 34-year-old divorced media studies student, with little outside income and a pre-existing condition, I am the exact reason the new health care law is so important.

At 15, I began working as an actor; one of the perks was comprehensive insurance coverage through my union, the Screen Actors Guild. Until six years ago, I didn't need it.

Jennifer Sky is a Brooklyn-based investigative journalist covering child labor, human trafficking and corruption in the fashion industry. Previously she was a successful teen model and actress in television and film. Jennifer uses her past in entertainment as a tool to report on crime.

Her ebook, “Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom,” published by The Atavist, is about the summer she spent in Japan at age 15 as a fashion model.

Her writing has been featured in a number of print and on-line publications, including The New York Times, New York magazine, The New Republic, New York Observer, The Daily Beast, Tin House, and was interviewed for CNN’s “This is Life” with Lisa Ling.  She has been a Contributor for Interview magazine and a Contributing Editor for One Teen Story. She is currently working as a freelance researcher and reporter for the Brian Ross Unit of ABC News.

Her nonfiction covers a wide range of topics but many focus on personal essays, interviews, healthcare, and recently, she has focused her journalism on human rights and labor rights within the fashion industry. As a freelance journalist, she has had the honor of interviewing such esteemed authors as Salman Rushdie, Cheryl Strayed, Elissa Schappell, Sigrid Nunez and Colson Whitehead.

From age 14, Jennifer traveled extensively as a child model, working for such magazines as Seventeen, YM, Allure, ElleMademoiselle and Vogue Bambini. She booked campaigns for Pepe Jeans, California Tan, Dannon, Baby Ruth, and Ford. Her cover shoots included Sassy magazine and Maxim.

During her late teens and twenties, Jennifer pursued an acting career, studying acting with Bill Esper and Greta Seacat in New York before relocating to Los Angeles for a contract role on General Hospital. She appeared on the final season of the Mickey Mouse Club and went on to work on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; CSI: Las Vegas; and Charmed. She had recurring character roles on CSI: Miami, Fastlane, and Xena: Warrior Princess and was the title character on the cult Sci-Fi series Cleopatra 2525. In movies, Jennifer appeared opposite Peter Falk in Columbo Likes the Nightlife and opposite Bradley Cooper in My Little Eye. Other films include Shallow Hal and Never Die Alone. See Jennifer’s complete acting resume below.

Jennifer holds a BFA from The New School and an MFA from Brooklyn College.

Acting Resume

Film

   
Somewhere Uncredited Focus/ Sofia Coppola
Never Die Alone Lead Fox Searchlight
My Little Eye Lead Working Title
The Helix Supporting Independent
Meet Market Supporting Independent
Shallow Hal Featured Fox
Fish Without a Bicycle Featured Independent
Trigger Happy Lead Independent

Short Film

   
Canary Hop Featured w/Andy Samberg
Shop Club Lead Independent short

Television

   
CSI: Miami Recurring CBS
Fastlane Recurring Fox/Dir: McG
Columbo: Columbo Likes the Nightlife Lead ABC MOW
She's With the Band Lead/Producer MTV Pilot
Boomtown Guest Lead NBC/Dir: John Avnet
Charmed Guest Lead WB
L.A. Dragnet Guest Lead ABC
The Partners Guest Lead ABC Pilot
CSI Guest Lead CBS
Cleopatra 2525 Regular/Cleopatra Syndicated
Xena: Warrior Princess Recurring Syndicated
General Hospital Contract Role ABC
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Guest Lead WB
Sins of the City Guest Lead Showtime
Our Son, the Matchmaker Co-star CBS MOW
Pacific Blue Guest Lead WB
Emerald Cove Series Regular Disney
Seaquest Featured Amblin TV
Out of the Blue Guest Lead Syndicated

CONTACT

Literary Agent:
Meg Thompson
Thompson Literary Agency
meg@thompsonliterary.com

Publicist:
Claire McKinney
claire@clairemckinneyPR.com

Contact Jen for all other inquiries:
jen@jennifersky.com

Child Model PSA produced by Matthew D’Amato and John Grossman for NYPS. Directed by Troy Word. Music by Zack Smith. Makeup and hair by Mari Shten.

Photo in biography section: Jen in the hat. Shot by Frederic Monceau. Makeup and hair by Marine Faux.

Jen on IMDB.